Licht Kunst Licht AG
Cultural Buildings & Event Locations


Berlin, Germany
AFF Architekten GmbH, Berlin
Schöpflin Foundation, Lörrach
Spore Initiative
Project Management
SMB Bauprojektsteuerung Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH, Berlin
Project size
approx. 3,500 sqm
Tjark Spille

Sustainability and Culture in Unison: The House Spore Initiative in Berlin

Located in the former approach path of Tempelhof Airport, an attractive ensemble offering space for creativity, culture and multidisciplinary networking has emerged, consisting of two buildings, the “Spore Initiative” and the “Haus des gemeinnützigen Journalismus” (House of Non-profit Journalism), designed by AFF Architekten. The Spore building was solemnly inaugurated in spring 2023, while the House of Journalism shall follow in autumn.

The Spore Initiative considers itself a center for global Earthbound projects, dedicated to ecological change and committed to the promotion of cultural experiences. With this building, the client Schöpflin Foundation wants to offer a meeting place that facilitates dialogue and a lively network, as well as acting as a public arena. With its cafeteria, library, auditorium, art exhibition space, apartments for artists and authors, seminar and project rooms, as well as production workshops, the Spore Initiative offers a diverse and high-quality program.

We were responsible for the lighting design in the public areas of the ground floor at House Spore, as well as for the exhibition area on the first floor. The integrated lighting concept underlines the open character of the sculptural, clear-cut architecture with differentiated lighting atmospheres and promotes the didactic and aesthetic experience inside the multi-use spaces.

The fundamental goal of the Spore Initiative is to promote dialogue between figures in politics, society, and the arts, with the aim of harmonizing culture and nature, and supporting projects that encourage ecological change. For this purpose, the client, the Schöpflin Foundation from Lörrach, announced an ideas competition, from which AFF Gesellschaft für Architekten mbH from Berlin emerged as the winner in 2018. With their sculptural, yet timeless design for the building ensemble consisting of Spore Initiative and House of Non-profit Journalism, the designers have established an approach that respectfully references its surroundings in terms of materiality and scale. The use of red brick masonry is not only reflected in the nearby cemetery buildings, but also in other public buildings in Berlin.

The Spore Initiative property is located on the busy Hermannstrasse in Berlin’s Neukölln district, to the right of the historic entrance to the Protestant cemetery Jerusalem V, which is to be gradually sold and rededicated over the coming decades. Situated in the immediate vicinity of the former Tempelhof Airport and in its old flight path, the architects of the Berlin-based AFF office have integrated not only the cemetery portal but also two landmarked aircraft approach masts into the architectural ensemble in order to achieve communication between the buildings and their existing surroundings. The new edifice with its flowing forms and the extraordinary interplay of different types of brick opens up to the public with an inviting, glazed first floor and a large roof terrace extending across the corner. The interior is characterized primarily by concrete elements and a striking coffered concrete ceiling.

On the first floor, which serves as a movement landscape for all public functions, there is a lobby, cafeteria, project room and an auditorium, on the 1st floor there are exhibition spaces, above them a library, seminar rooms, apartments for artists and authors, studios and offices. The basement houses the necessary auxiliary spaces. The roof terrace, which can also be reached via an external staircase, has limited public access and offers employees and visitors an attractive space for exchange and encounters.

The visitor enters the flowing rooms of the approximately 4-meter-high first floor via the newly designed forecourt on Hermannstrasse. A special feature is that the materiality of the exterior is continued in color into the gray exposed screed of the interior, thus achieving a close relationship between exterior and interior. The foyer area, which is flooded with daylight due to the generous floor-to-ceiling glazing and its raw materiality, is characterized by a striking ceiling structure of coffered concrete ceilings. The polygonal ceiling coffers form a cell-like structure and extend between the joists as a profiled slab with integrated wood-concrete acoustic strips. The lighting concept cleverly picks up on the graphic design language by integrating linear lighting elements into the ribs in a dissolved arrangement. With a wide-beam characteristic and a light color of 3,000 K, they provide lively ambient lighting that invites people to explore and linger. The lighting atmosphere supports the natural character of the building through subtle gradations in uniformity with appropriately distributed brightness levels. In addition, the primarily light-colored materials of the interior design and freely arranged furniture are emphasized, while the light reflecting off the surfaces gently illuminates and highlights the ceiling structure.

The auditorium can be separated from the foyer by a silver-colored folding wall adapted to the cell structure. The room opens stair-like into the depth of the building from the ground floor to the basement and offers space for 85 people. The resulting difference in height is compensated in terms of lighting by wide- and medium-beam linear surface-mounted luminaires on the ground floor and narrow- and medium-beam luminaires with higher wattages in the deeper areas of the room.
The back wall of the space is illuminated by wallwashers recessed in the acoustic panels. An average illuminance of 500 lx is achieved in the stage zone, and up to 300 lx in the audience area. The individual controllability of the lighting via a wall-mounted control panel allows an easy adjustment of the lighting to the respective requirements.

The same lighting principle is used in the project room and in the auditorium. Spotlights can be inserted into the tracks for additional accentuation or pendant luminaires can be attached.

The lounge and cafeteria are oriented towards the forecourt and create a connection to the open space with its outside terrace via the generous glass facade. The ambient illumination is supplemented in the counter area by powerful light from medium-beam ceiling luminaires as well as by decorative pendant luminaires in the seating area, which thus create good orientation within the space and accentuation of the gastronomic area.

The massive, load-bearing concrete columns of the building are simultaneously passageways to the cabinet and cloakroom. These central elements of the architecture are accentuated from below by floor-recessed asymmetrical grazing luminaires, thus emphasizing their load-bearing properties. The cabinet offers a sneak preview of the lighting concept in the upper single-use exhibition area. The approximately 45-square-meter exhibition space is connected to the lounge via a large viewing window and, in contrast to the rest of the ground floor, is kept entirely white. A suspended metal grid ceiling is evenly divided by parallel, recessed metal profiles. White lighting tracks are recessed in the latter and 90 cm long LED light strips with a color rendering of >90 are integrated in a regular rhythm. Between the light strips and next to the walls are wide-beam track spotlights that can be adjusted to the desired brightness using onboard potentiometers. Both systems are flexible: the spotlights beam characteristics can be modified with corresponding accessories and adapted to the requirements.

The central, sculptural staircase in the foyer forms the centerpiece of the ground floor and winds between the supporting columns from the basement to the upper floor. The staircase is crowned by a skylight above the void, which allows abundant daylight into the building. The installed tiltable, linear recessed downlights can be adjusted to the ceiling inclinations and are selected with suitable beam characteristics, either narrow-beam in the high ceiling area or medium- to wide-beam for the lower room heights.

The exhibition areas on the 1st floor are designed as a so-called “white cube”: Art can be flexibly arranged in the empty space, which appears neutral with its white surfaces. Openings placed at two points allow views of the urban surroundings. AFF architects chose a white cement screed for the floor, while the white exposed ceiling and joists are concealed by a suspended metal grid. Joints running in the recessed grid ceiling parallel to the building’s longitudinal side accommodate 3-phase tracks on which LED light strips and spotlights with excellent color rendering properties can be flexibly arranged. All lighting elements are also white and blend in with the clear-cut and understated design of the room.

The forecourt, passageway and side entrance are illuminated by wall-mounted luminaires adapted to the historic cemetery portal on both sides. The luminaires facing the street are switched on throughout the night, just like the adjacent street lights.
The handrail running along the red brick outer wall contains the ambient and emergency lighting for the access to the roof terrace. With the prevailing sufficient brightness and safety conditions fully met, the design fulfills the requirements of the trend-setting Berlin Light Master Plan, where environmentally compatible lighting is an important aspect.

For the roof terrace, different lighting scenarios are used according to its function as a green oasis and retreat area, event location and stage, creating the desired atmosphere and ambiance. The concrete recessed luminaires, which are discreetly recessed in the parapet and have a forward-emitting light distribution, provide ambient lighting for events. The organically shaped pavilion at the center of the roof terrace – both a stage and an audience or interaction space for seminars and lectures – is illuminated from within the roof structure, whose irregular arrangement is reminiscent of a starry sky and offers versatile lighting options.

The mound-like planting areas on the terrace and their vegetation of grasses, perennials and trees are accentuated by minimalist abstracted “bell flowers” with a downward light distribution. As a result, the green area is loosely zoned.

With House Spore Initiative, an assertive and self-contained building has been created, which will be identity-forming for Neukölln with its open and inviting design. The designers’ respectful treatment of the genius loci, as well as the aspiration to create a house that presents itself as a place of meeting and dialogue, make the building worth seeing and visiting.

Licht Kunst Licht AG
Licht Kunst Licht AG
Licht Kunst Licht AG
Licht Kunst Licht AG
Licht Kunst Licht AG
Licht Kunst Licht AG
Licht Kunst Licht AG
Licht Kunst Licht AG
Licht Kunst Licht AG